A Recent Writing Exercise: Beach Prompt

Some time ago I pulled this prompt from Writer’s Digest University’s “Showing Character Emotion“. As an exercise I recently wrote a snippet in response.  It resonates with me because of the beach experiences of my childhood. The snippet is in draft form; I’ll be returning at some point to polish it by convey more emotion, directly and indirectly.

“Create a character who’s favorite place is the beach. Describe her thoughts as she stands on the sand and looks out at the ocean; use specific, imaginative, and active verbs.”

My response:
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A road dead-ended quietly into a drab yellow stone plaza.  Several structures of the same dusty dingy yellow stone, hundreds of years old, surrounded the plaza.  Footfalls raised stale puffs of dust with each step.

To the east in the gloom stood doors to an old frayed church huddled against its larger looming neighbor.  It was also made of the stone, but the thick, tall doors rose in dark wood gleaming despite the dust in the growing dark.

The air around lay dry and still.  No wind blew, no breeze teased the dust.

The entrance reached over their heads.  At a glance, the dark doors were at least nine feet.  A pediment of sorts crawled and curled and curved its way up and over the doors in a half-moon arc.  Inside the pediment’s half-moon shined defiantly two quarters of stained glass, like slitted eyes of a baleful being staring out from the church.

She didn’t seem like the girl he remembered from college.  She hesitated just a little, an almost indiscernible pause, each time before she spoke.  Her only unguarded moment came when she met his wife for the first time.  Her face lit up, and she smiled in delight.

She calmed slightly as she greeted T.

They all sat back down at the bar, H. standing between the two women.

He gestured at the bartender to order his wife a drink, and picked up his own glass, idly twisting it as he watched the others.

Her face expressed a calm warmth, and she was back to the slight hesitation before she spoke.  She spoke clearly, in a low voice, unhurried.

The girl he remembered could babble on for hours.

Sifa and Peter On Hold

I am putting my first novel, Sifa and Peter, on the back burner for now while I hone my writing skills.  It’s become evident that the novel is rather intricate for a first novel.  Take a look at my story premise:

A young woman damaged by her childhood and too eager to please, as well as a mother grieving from a damaging and traumatic genetic legacy of blood clotting, and a hard-working but selfish cousin, come together in during a family member’s crisis, coming to terms with not only family secrets but their past, their flaws, and the true desires of their hearts.

Whew!

I’m going to take some time for shorter works. More on that to come.

Rain fell in a heavy cascade onto the windshield, a veritable waterfall that wipers battled in a futile effort. She peered cautiously ahead. Even at this slow speed, the wind still buffeted the car and shook it constantly. Her hands gripped the steering wheel tightly as she jerked the wheel back and forth in small, tight motions in a fight to keep the car in a relatively straight line.
“Just a little rain,” she said out loud. “What an idiot!” Her sarcasm echoed oddly, competing against the sounds of the beating rain in the otherwise empty SUV. “The idiot formerly known as my manager,” she added.

Her manager had seemed a decent enough guy when she had hired on last month, but in the last few hours her respect for him had plunged.

A stronger gust slammed into the car, causing it to shudder. She winced and gripped the steering wheel tighter, thankful for the bigger mass of the SUV rental.

Her whitened knuckles were a testament not only to the fury of the storm but also her fear barely held at bay.

Departing hotel employees, the latest weather report, and a late burst of sanity had finally prompted her departure, but drunk co-workers celebrating the hurricane waylaid her in the lobby. It took precious minutes to extricate herself and drive away.

Now the storm was almost on top of them all.

The two cousins completed their cooldown and headed back to Peter’s car.  She breathed in the crisp air, craning her head to look up at the vibrant autumn light shining through the leaves.  Far overhead in the blue sky a V of ducks headed southwest, honking faintly in the distance.

She suddenly pitched forward.  Peter grabbed her arm to steady her just in time.  “Careful!” he chuckled. “That sidewalk crack just attacked your foot.”

She ducked her head and blushed beet-red as her phone rang.

“Hi, Mom!” In the next instant, she collapsed onto a nearby bench, her face now unnervingly pale.

Writing Excerpt: Sifa and Peter

The two cousins ran in silence born of long familiarity, finishing the last leg of their usual route as the sunrise glinted across the lake.  Neither spoke until they were back in Peter’s car.  Sifa leaned back against the headrest with her eyes closed as Peter started the car.  After a moment, she looked over at her cousin in the driver’s seat.

“Thanks.”

“No problem.” He paused with one hand on the keys in the ignition.  “What for?”

“I’m just really glad you’re you.”

Peter ducked his head in a short nod, then he whirled a hand in the air with a flourish as he said, “Well, I’m awesome. See, I put up with you.”

Sifa punched him lightly in the upper arm.

“Ow! No hitting the driver.”

“The car hasn’t even started yet, you doofus,” she laughed.

Writing Status: S&P Progress

The first part, of three parts, of my novel about Sifa and Peter, is shaping up nicely.  I feel like the section now builds the characters and builds up tensions for the upcoming conflicts in a decent way.  I’m still struggling a bit with Laura’s story — how much to reveal about her personal tragedy in the first part.  How much allusion versus specific detail should be included?  How much should I unravel, or unveil, about her problems?  After all, her story is not as prominent as Sifa’s, or Peter’s.

I may have finally found someone to review Peter’s work scene, someone who knows of the profession Peter has in the book.  We’ll see!